Last night, President Donald Trump reversed a directive made by Barack Obama ensuring that students in schools are permitted to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity. This isn’t just an education issue or a bathroom issue — it is a human and civil rights issue and yes, we all should be angry about it.
I’ve heard arguments along the lines of, “but I don’t actually know any transgender people, so it’s hard for me to get worked up about this” or “why all this fuss over such a small part of the population?” Well, you should be worked up. Here’s why:
Trans rights are human rights and civil rights, and it is absolutely the responsibility of the federal government to guarantee and uphold those rights. Of course, states should do this too, but saying decisions like whether a child should be permitted to use the bathroom that corresponds with his/her/their gender isn’t the job of the federal government sets a dangerous precedent. It essentially tells trans individuals (and everyone else) that their civil rights are not a concern on the federal level — and that’s not acceptable.
Secondly, whether or not you personally know any transgender individuals should not dictate whether you support their basic civil rights. This isn’t about you, and you can’t assign value to one person based on their relationship to another. Knowing someone is not — and should not — be a prerequisite for being an ally to marginalized populations. Trans people have rights whether or not you know them.
Then there’s the asinine yet ever-popular “safety and privacy” argument — basically, that the federal government was overstepping its bounds because this decision somehow threatened the “safety and privacy” of non-transgender students. Here’s the thing: It does not. Stalls exist to give everyone privacy, and I have never heard of a transgender student going into a bathroom to attack or harass a non-transgender student or do anything to threaten their safety. Not only that, but there have been no reports of attacks in this direction, but plenty featuring violence against transgender individuals in bathrooms.
Bottom line: Don’t conflate safety and privacy with transphobia and hate.
This is not just about bathrooms and locker rooms in schools — it’s today’s civil rights issue. This repealed directive may just be the beginning of the erosion on LGBTQ rights during the Trump era, so now is the time to show up and let the administration know that this will not stand.